Editor’s note: Some of our covid-19 coverage is free for readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. For more stories and our pandemic tra
ON MAY 18TH Bruno Covas, the mayor of São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, announced an unscheduled five-day holiday to discourage people from going out. The residents of Paraisópolis, a favela of perhaps 100,000 people in southern São Paulo, where covid-19 deaths are rising at a faster rate than anywhere else in the city, saw the festive side. A popcorn vendor set up shop to serve the stream of patients entering a clinic. School-aged boys flew kites nearby. “Brazil adapted well to this new reality,” joked one, pointing to crowded rooftops and the dancing diamonds overhead.
Brazil’s covid-19 curve looks like a kite string. On May 28th it had 411,821 confirmed cases and 25,598 deaths. The United States, the only country with more cases, barred Brazilians from entering from May 26th. The World Health Organisation has declared South America “a new epicentre”, with Brazil the worst affected country. A study in 133 cities by the Federal University of Pelotas in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul concluded that Brazil’s caseload is seven times the official number.
Brazil entered the pandemic with strengths. Like the United States it has a federal system. Governors (and mayors) have the power to…